How To Declutter Your Books

Do you have shelves overstuffed with books? Are there magazines stacked all over your floor? Do you want to make a change but fear parting with your books? Do you love them so much you can’t possibly let them go? Whether you’ve found minimalism and want to get rid of everything or just make some space at home for new books – you’re in the right place to learn how to declutter your books! 😇


Methods to Declutter Your Books

The following methods each have their own advantages. When I was reducing my book collection at home, I tried all of these methods myself and found the more extreme methods worked best for me!

Method 1 – Slow and Steady

One way to start and declutter your books is with a daily challenge. On day one, choose one book you no longer need and discard it. On day two, choose two books you no longer need and discard them. On day thee, choose three books you no longer need, and so on. Keep on going for at least a month, or until your bookshelves are in a much better state. This is a slow and ongoing process, the benefit is that it takes just a few minutes a day and starts out quite easy. The problem is it becomes more difficult over time and it can be hard to keep going; so I don’t personally recommend it! 🙅

Method 2 – Divide And Conquer

This method requires a decent amount of time and commitment as you’re going to sort through all your books in one go, in a single day. Start by getting all of your books together in one place. This may seem crazy, but it’s impossible to declutter your books when they are hidden in all corners of your home! Once you have everything in one place, create three piles (or boxes) for your books; books to keep, books to maybe keep and books to let go. Examine your books one at a time and place them in the relevant pile. With only two piles, its difficult to stick with your intuition, so the books to maybe keep pile acts as a buffer. At the end, go through this pile again, taking your time and dividing them further into books to keep and books to let go. 📚

Method 3 – Keep Only The Best

This one is heavy handed and based on choosing only the best of the best. Set yourself a target number of books to keep. This is a personal choice, if you have thousands of books you may want to keep a hundred of them, while if you have twenty books you may want to keep fifteen. Look through your bookshelves and choose only your favorite books – up to your target number. This method makes it easy to compare books and really decide which are the most important. Let go of everything else. 💯

Method 4 – Put It All Away

If you’re finding it hard to get started, this more extreme method is rather effective. Gather all of your books (even the ones you’re currently reading) in one place and put them away in boxes in the cupboard. Hide them all. Then go about your daily life as usual. If you ever need a book, go and find the single book you need and take it out of the box and put it on your bookshelf. After a month, see how many books you’ve actually taken out to use. You might just be surprised! 📦


Questions To Ask When You Declutter Your Books

The decluttering process isn’t easy and the methods listed above can often feel painful. To keep focused during my own process, I found it helpful to have a series of questions to ask myself while making decisions about each of my books. With each book I held, I asked myself the following questions to determine if I should keep it; or let it go.

1. Is the book or magazine out of date?

It’s easy to hold onto books that are no longer relevant or simply outdated. Great examples of this include old magazines, textbooks and travel guides. I’d kept magazines that advertised trends that were long gone and I had nearly a hundred travel guides about all kinds of places – that were incredibly outdated. I doubt many of the best Amsterdam restaurants from 1990 still hold true! Ask yourself how relevant the content still is and if it no longer serves a purpose, you no longer need it.

2. Is the book a duplicate?

It seems crazy to think there would be duplicates in your home library, but you might just be surprised. I doubted this myself, but then discovered some classics I had bought as paperbacks and then re-purchased as deluxe hardcovers (because they were so beautiful). Check for duplicates and keep only your favorites.

3. Have I read the book and will I read it again?

If you own a book you’ve read before (and don’t plan to read it again) it’s already served it’s purpose. This is commonly the case for novels, unless it’s a life-changing story you know you’ll read again. Most of my books fell into this category and served as decorative objects instead of functional ones.

If you own a book you haven’t read, will you read it tomorrow? If you’re not excited to read it, you can let it go. There are only so many books we can read in a lifetime and if it’s not a priority, don’t leave it sitting around. Looking around at all my unread books made me feel a sense of unfinished business.

4. Is the book used regularly?

If you use a book frequently for work or in your daily life, keep it! You might have religious books or educational materials you use often. In my case, this is mostly recipe books and design books that I use on a weekly basis. These books obviously have an ongoing purpose in your life, so you should hold onto them. Think about how often you actually use the book.

5. Does the book have sentimental value?

Sometimes this is hardest question to face when minimizing at home. We often hold onto things out of obligation and guilt, because they were gifts or markers of a time in our lives (such as childhood); even though we no longer have use for them. I’ve kept only a few sentimental books, those customized or made for me by friends. Weigh up the sentimental value and imagine if you’d purchased it for yourself instead – would you still be keeping it?

6. Why do I want to keep the book?

If it’s not for the above reasons, ask yourself why you want to keep it. I used to hold onto a lot of my books because of how they looked in our home and because I’d invested money in them. They made a statement about how I saw myself and were literal fruits of my labor. Shedding my books, it turns out I still live in a beautiful home without them!

7. Can I get the book at the library?

I’ve always loved libraries and there’s something comforting about knowing I can borrow a book if need be. If I can easily borrow a book at my local library, then I let it go. If I feel like re-reading it, I can always go and lend it. Ask yourself if you can do the same.

8. Could someone else find use for the book?

Once I realized I was holding onto all these wonderful stories that others could be reading too, it became much easier to let go. Would you rather a book sit on your shelf or be out there getting shared and enjoyed by the world? Whenever I can imagine someone else enjoying one of my books, I always try to pass it along!


After You Declutter Your Books

The final step is deciding what to do with the books you don’t need anymore. You can choose to sell them (at second hand bookstores or using online services), donate them (at thrift stores, charities, local libraries, schools or online) share them (passing them onto friends or family who will get real value from them) or recycle them (ask your local council for details).

I hope this guide has helped you simplify your bookshelves!

Have you decluttered your bookshelves before? Have any tips you’d like to share? Want to become a minimalist? I’d love to hear about your experiences decluttering books and simplifying your library below.

  1. I’m going to try to declutter one shelf a day for a month and see what happens… I donate all my ‘can be used or loved by someone else’ to a local charity called Shelter that devotes its time to taking care of the homeless.

    1. Hi Lita, this sounds like a great approach that makes the whole task a little less overwhelming! How did it work out for you? Shelter sounds like a wonderful cause to share your donations with too. Wishing you the best of luck with your decluttering process! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like